Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said the US is exploring new ways to pressure North Korea over its nuclear program. But the US will not seek to escalate tensions with Pyongyang - "the ball is in their court."
Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations, said Wednesday that the US would not seek to escalate tensions with North Korea and wanted to foster a peaceful solution.
"We're not trying to pick a fight so don't try and give us one," Haley said. "The ball is in their court. They shouldn't try and play at this point."
Chronology of North Korea's missile launches (click to enlarge)
Haley, the current head of the UN Security Council, also said the council was drafting a statement denouncing North Korea's recent failed missile test launch.
Diplomatic sources said the US-drafted statement would express the council's "utmost concern" at North Korea's "highly destabilizing behavior and flagrant and provocative defiance" of council resolutions. It also threatens to impose further sanctions should the North refuse to denuclearize.
Sources speaking on conditions of anonymity told the Associated Press news agency that China, the reclusive state's closest ally, had signed off on the draft statement, but Russia had objected because of a sentence expressing the council's commitment "to a peaceful, diplomatic and political solution to the situation" had excluded the words "through dialogue" - a remark that has commonly appeared in previous statements.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters that the United Nations fully backs efforts of all states trying to ensure "that North Korea doesn't acquire the capacities that would become a threat, not only for the region but in a wider area of the world."
'Reviewing all options' on North Korea
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said the US is considering whether to recall North Korea to its list of state sponsors of terrorism.
Tillerson's statement comes as the US looks at new ways to pressure the reclusive regime over its nuclear program and increasingly active military activities. North Korea is believed to have failed in its latest ballistic missile launch on Saturday, an attempted show of might that was supposed to cap a day of celebrations marking the birth of the country's founder, Kim Il Sung.
"We're reviewing all the statuses of North Korea, both in terms of state sponsorship of terrorism as well as the other ways in which we can bring pressure on the regime in Pyongyang to re-engage with us, but re-engage with us on a different footing than past talks have been held," Tillerson told reporters at a press conference in Washington on Wednesday.
"We are evaluating all of those options," he added.
North Korea was removed from the US' terror list in 2008, after Pyongyang agreed to disclose information on its nuclear weapons inventory. Then-president George W. Bush expected the decision to lead toward disarmament negotiations, although those talks collapsed soon afterward and have failed to resume.
However, having North Korea recalled to the list of terror sponsors would require the secretary of state to determine that the country has repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism. Currently, the US considers only three states as terrorism sponsors: Iran, Syria and Sudan.
Tensions have been rising on the Korean peninsula in recent days after it was believed the US Navy was being deployed near the Korean Peninsula, and over speculation that Pyongyang was preparing another nuclear test.
After the US launched cruise missiles at a Syrian airbase and "the mother of all bombs" over territory held by "Islamic State" militants in Afghanistan, some analysts have warned that the US may also take military action against Pyongyang.
Tillerson also warned that "an unchecked Iran has the potential to travel the same path as North Korea and take the world along with it." On Tuesday, the White House ordered a full review of its 2015 sanctions agreement with Iran, which Tillerson has described as a failure.
dm/cmk (AP, Reuters)